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Ten distinct artists, one common thread

Paintings such as this one by Audrey Falk will be included in the exhibit at Ridgewater College. Falk is a former art instructor at the college. (Submitted photo )

The works of 10 different artists are joined as one exhibit this month at Ridgewater Community College in Willmar, even though their creations are as diverse and as widely-separated as are the artists' addresses.

These 10 artists hail today from locations as widely separated as New York City and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

But they all share one common thread: Each was either a student or instructor at what is now the Willmar campus of Ridgewater College.

The exhibit "45 Years of Excellence'' celebrates the school's years of service to the region by exhibiting some of the artistic talent it both nurtured and encouraged through those years.

The works on exhibit include those from artists who can trace their start to the school's early years, as well as those whose association with the school is as recent as today.

Along with assembling the works of the artists for the exhibit, Ridgewater College arts instructor Marjorie Nilssen has solicited written comments from them on their experiences. Their experiences vary as greatly as the many years of history would lead one to expect.

Willmar artist Audrey Falk tells how she began teaching part time when the former military radar station had only recently been converted for use as a community college. Snow sometimes blew across the floor of her classroom in a former barracks, and she shared a windowless, closet-sized office with two others.

Roger Laux Nelson enrolled at what was called the Willmar Community College in 1963, and recalls how he was influenced by the school's first, full-time art professor, Orrel Thompson. Thompson and the school "opened up the world of art" to him, Nelson writes, describing how he still recalls "how exciting it was for him to experiment and discover the art medium that most interested him."

Nelson creates his art in New York City today, but he's only one of many former students of Thompson who have made their careers far from the school. Thompson has sent students from his classrooms to careers in locations throughout North America and Europe.

Instructors Thompson and Falk, and their students, share a common theme in describing their experience here. "Rewarding and inspiring" are the most oft repeated comments on their years at the school.

"It was short and sweet but the art department woke me up to a life full of investigations, inspirations, and a search for a sense of truth and beauty,'' writes artist Brian Jorgenson, who attended Ridgewater from 2000 to 2002.

The exhibit is on display through April 24 in the arts gallery on campus, and available to public viewing during the regular school hours. A special reception for the artists will be held from 4 to 6:30 p.m. on April 24.